HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs (Multifamily), which oversees contracts with private owners of HUD-assisted properties, made more updates to its “Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus (COVID-19)” (see Memo 3/23) on March 24. A total of 34 questions/answers were either updated or added. Twenty-two of the questions/answers pertain to multifamily closings from HUD’s Office of the General Council that are probably not of interest to most Memo readers. This article will highlight some of the other changes.
Under the category “Resident Health,” Q2 was updated. The question adds how a property owner/agent (O/A) should share information about a confirmed COVID-19 case. HUD suggests that O/As identify platforms, such as a hotline, automated text messaging, and a website to help spread information to those inside and outside their organizations. O/As can provide notifications of positive COVID-19 cases without giving the name/apartment number or other personally identifiable information to their residents and staff. HUD reminds O/As that they continue to remain subject to the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996” (HIPAA) and other privacy laws. HIPAA gives people rights about the privacy of their health information.
New Q3 adds that O/As should inform residents that someone in their building is positive for COVID-19 by following CDC communications advice at: https://bit.ly/3duhqjq
Under the Category “Policy and Operations,” Q6 is updated. It addresses what O/As can do when residents who are impacted by COVID-19 or have concerns about coming to the property office for an income recertification interview or to sign related forms. HUD allows O/As to accept electronic signatures from residents for the time being, as long as original signatures are made on recertification documents at a later date. HUD adds that residents can also provide background documentation for recertification by email to the O/A, at the O/A’s discretion. Examples of such background documentation include pay stubs, Social Security or Supplemental Security Income payments, bank statements, and public assistance documents. This provision will enable O/As to complete a temporary recertification using electronic versions of these documents and collect the original documents from a resident at a later date.
A revised Q7 relates to residents who experience an income reduction due to COVID-19. HUD adds that since O/As are required to make an interim reexamination of a resident’s income when a resident requests one, “within a reasonable timeframe,” O/As are encouraged to review and update their current policies to allow for expedited reviews of such requests. HUD indicates that it will also work to expedite its review and approval of these interim certifications. HUD adds to Q7 the text regarding the use of electronic resident signatures and alternative documentation described at Q 6.
A new Q8 addresses the potential issue of maintenance staff concerned about entering someone’s home who could be ill. HUD indicates that staff can ask a resident if it is safe to enter, and staff who do not feel it is safe to enter are not required to do so. In addition, HUD suggests that non-essential or non-health and safety repairs be deferred on a unit-by-unit basis. If a repair is necessary for the health and safety of a resident but a staff person is not comfortable entering the unit as a result of potential COVID-19 exposure, the O/A should consult local health guidance regarding the appropriate precautions to take.
New Q9 makes it clear that costs directly related to safety or preventative equipment for staff in response to COVID-19 are eligible project expenses using residual receipts funds.
For Q4, regarding rent comparability studies (RCSs), under the category of “Property Reviews and Inspections,” HUD rescinded the guidance in the March 16 Q&A regarding how it will respond to an owner's previously submitted RCS (see Memo 3/23). HUD will provide new guidance in the coming weeks.
HUD anticipates updating the Q&A periodically as more questions from O/As arise. Advocates should check the website of HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs.
The Q&A for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus (COVID-19 is at: https://bit.ly/3aknwRd
More information about the Office of Multifamily’s Project-Based Rental Assistance program is on page 4-46 of NLIHC’s 2019 Advocates’ Guide.